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Since the discovery that anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) are involved in the anaerobic oxidation of methane coupled to sulfate reduction in marine sediments, different primers and probes specifically targeting the 16S rRNA gene of these archaea have been developed. Microbial investigation of the different ANME subtypes (ANME-1; ANME-2a, b, and c; and ANME-3) was mainly done in sediments where specific subtypes of ANME were highly enriched and methanogenic cell numbers were low. In different sediments with higher archaeal diversity and abundance, it is important that primers and probes targeting different ANME subtypes are very specific and do not detect other ANME subtypes or methanogens that are also present. In this study, primers and probes that were regularly used in AOM studies were tested in silico on coverage and specificity. Most of the previously developed primers and probes were not specific for the ANME subtypes, thereby not reflecting the actual ANME population in complex samples. Selected primers that showed good coverage and high specificity for the subclades ANME-1, ANME-2a/b, and ANME-2c were thoroughly validated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). From these qPCR tests, only certain combinations seemed suitable for selective amplification. After optimization of these primer sets, we obtained valid primer combinations for the selective detection and quantification of ANME-1, ANME-2a/b, and ANME-2c in samples where different ANME subtypes and possibly methanogens could be present. As a result of this work, we propose a standard workflow to facilitate selection of suitable primers for qPCR experiments on novel environmental samples.
- Anaerobic oxidation of methane